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  • Lydgate at Long Melford: Reassessing the Testament and “Quis Dabit Meo Capiti Fontem Lacrimarum” in Their Local Context

The extracodical stanzas of John Lydgate’s Testament and “Quis Dabit Meo Capiti Fontem Lacrimarum” in the Clopton chantry chapel of the Great Church of Holy Trinity, Long Melford, not only are two intriguing witnesses differing in presentation and language from the manuscript copies but also can be considered as part of a rhetorical program wherein the Lydgate works serve to connect the Clopton family as the benefactors of the chapel to the fabric of the church and the larger community. With the careful selection of particular Lydgate stanzas and their placement alongside visual objects, the result is a text that is unique to the particular context of Long Melford and which reflects not only Lydgate but the parish community as a whole. For this reason, both context and content have to be considered when presenting these verses, rather than relying simply on the text itself.


parish church architecture, literature, John Lydgate, Testament of John Lydgate, “Quis Dabit Meo Capiti Fontem Lacrimarum”

Located in the small village of Long Melford, twelve miles south of Bury St. Edmunds and four miles north of Sudbury, the Great Church of Holy Trinity still contains many of its medieval architectural elements, including exterior inscriptions requested by the financiers of its fifteenth-century renovation. Most notable among these patrons was John Clopton, who appears to have shouldered the bulk of the expense.1 In addition to these inscriptions, which generally ask that viewers pray for the soul of the patron or patrons, Clopton’s chantry chapel at Long Melford contains a number of painted scrolls containing stanzas from John Lydgate’s Testament and “Quis Dabit Meo Capiti Fontem Lacrimarum” as well as a single partial stanza from his “Balade at the Reverance of Our Lady.” [End Page 77]

The stanzas at Long Melford are unique witnesses of the poems. Unlike any other versions, the texts are shaped for presentation in the chapel’s architectural space. And—again unlike any other versions—the texts refer to their narrator in the plural rather than the singular. They address not the “I” of the individual reader but the “we” of the entire religious community. Both of these changes in presentation shift the intended audience from the single penitent intending to read and contemplate Lydgate’s words as they exist in the codex to the larger community of churchgoers attending Holy Trinity. This creates a discrete audience that can then be examined to better understand how the poem would have been received, interpreted, and redeployed in the service of late fifteenth-century lay piety. As included in the rhetorical program of the church, the poems became part of a general framework of interlocking spiritual debt and responsibility, including inscriptions on the outer wall of the church and the language of wills in the area. In addition, the layout of the stanzas within the chapel radically changes the reading experience. A reader contemplating the text in the codex would be able to focus inwardly on the words. But a reader contemplating the text in the chapel does so as part of a penitential performance. It is impossible to read everything in the chapel without moving throughout the space, kneeling and turning as needed. Because of the multiple changed registers in which the Long Melford stanzas operate, it is not enough to treat the poem as one might a text in a codex. Instead, the changed context and its implications shift our understanding of Lydgate’s utilization by local parish communities and the ways in which mid-to late fifteenth-century lay churchgoers would alter works in English to achieve their larger spiritual goals. The poems must be looked at within that shifted contextual framework.

Most work on the poems has not engaged with them in such a holistic frame. Where the scrolls are mentioned in scholarship it is either as a curiosity attached to the architecturally more important Holy Trinity, as in Sir William Parker’s History of Long Melford, or in the service of a larger argument of which they are an important but ancillary support, as in the work of Anthony Bale, Jennifer Floyd, Gail McMurray Gibson, and Simon Horobin.2 The closest thing to the study that this article attempts is the work of David Griffiths in describing the fourth stanza of the “Balade at the Reverance of Our Lady” that appears on the west wall of the chantry chapel and that of J. B. Trapp in examining the verses of the Testament and the “Quis Dabit Meo Capiti Fontem Lacrimarum.”3 Griffiths does not, however, attempt to examine all of the verses within [End Page 78] their full context—both the physical space they survive in and the religious community that commissioned and contemplated them—and Trapp’s discussion of the relationship between the Testament and “Quis Dabit” has a number of errors that need to be addressed. This article thus intervenes in the discussion of the utilization of Lydgate in the decades following his death and the ways in which secular works were used in the service of lay piety.

holy trinity and john clopton

There are other examples of painted extracodical inscriptions in parish churches, but the Clopton chapel poems are the only extant example to come from the Lydgate corpus.4 Moreover, the stanzas at Long Melford originate from poems with a comparatively limited survival rate. While the Testament does survive in fourteen manuscript witnesses, the “Quis Dabit” survives in five, and the “Balade” survives only in two. In comparison, the Fall of Princes has sixty-four surviving manuscript witnesses, the Life of our Lady has fifty, and the Siege of Thebes has thirty.

Not only are the stanzas at Long Melford from less common survivals, but they are also excised from the larger originals in order to better fit their context within the church. In all cases that adaptation — most notably in the shift from the singular I to the plural we in the Testament stanzas and the addition of a line to one of its stanzas in order to normalize the meter — changed the underlying meaning. These changes indicate that the poems were not viewed as inviolate, and their unique circumstances of production and display at Holy Trinity eliminate the possibility of unintentional removal as a result of the loss of manuscript leaves over time. Furthermore, despite the respect for Lydgate’s poetic talents seen, for example, in his inclusion alongside Chaucer and Gower in Osbern Bokenham’s poetry, the original structure and stated narrative function of his works were not considered in reproducing them for the Clopton chantry chapel. Thus, the Lydgate poems at Long Melford provide a unique example of how the poet’s work was perceived and altered to fit its new architectural context and moreover show ways in which the text functioned not as the central focus for contemplation but as one of a number of elements intended to reinforce the concerns of the laity as regards the overall sacramental program of the church as a whole. [End Page 79]

the clopton chantry chapel and lydgate’s works

While the Testament and “Quis Dabit” are often found together in manuscript witnesses, it is not enough to simply note the connection when dealing with the extracodical stanzas at Long Melford. Instead, the poems have to be considered alongside the inscriptions and architectural elements of the church. Such consideration reveals that in the architectural space they become part of a calculated rhetorical program, containing visual, performative, and textual elements, wherein Lydgate’s words are used to request the salvation of not only John Clopton but others who concerned Clopton as well. As Simon Roffey notes, chantry chapels were “far from being primarily individualist or indeed ‘private’ monuments” and instead were an important and integral part of the entire community of worship in the church.5 Evidence of such a connection to the larger community and its interests can be seen in the particular choice and position of the Testament and “Quis Dabit” stanzas, which in turn connect the Clopton chantry to the church’s Lady Chapel, underscore the likelihood that Long Melford was a pilgrimage site, and present the intriguing possibility that the memorial inscriptions also at Long Melford served a similar chantry function.6

The plan of the church shows that the Clopton chantry chapel is north of the high altar, with an entrance leading to it from where the Clopton family box was located (Figure 1). There would have been an altar along the eastern wall— one of six in the church including the high altar—and the tomb of John Clopton, which doubled as the Easter sepulcher for the church, was built into the southern wall of the chapel. The space between the tomb and its stone canopy provided an opening through which a viewer could see the high altar. Additionally, a double squint in the western wall between the Clopton family box and the chantry gave those praying in the box a line of sight directly to the altar across Clopton’s tomb.

The open upper half of the wooden paneling of the Clopton box could also serve as a squint, and the now-missing rood screen and loft may have had similar openings in them as well.8 While the use of the wooden paneling in this way is speculative, it is clear from the remaining openings in the stone walls that viewing, contemplating, and understanding the text of Lydgate’s poems in association with the architectural structure of the chapel requires penitents to be actively engaged in acts of penitential devotion—kneeling, turning, and moving throughout the space in ways [End Page 80]

Fig. 1. Plan of Holy Trinity, Long Melford. The locations of the Clopton chapel, Clopton chantry, and Lady Chapel are marked.
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Fig. 1.

Plan of Holy Trinity, Long Melford. The locations of the Clopton chapel, Clopton chantry, and Lady Chapel are marked.7

[End Page 81]

that are inconsistent with the more restrained actions undertaken while reading a poem in a codex. The lines of sight enforced by these squints required the viewer to kneel in order to see the altar, and the penitent in the Clopton chantry must do so not only to see the altar through the opening created by the tomb but to see the image of Christ and the associated text painted on the underside of the tomb canopy.9 The texts are only accessed completely through actions of devotion, and the process of reading, beginning with the central beam of the roof, is associated with the practice of faith through performative ritual.

The chapel roof consists of a central beam running parallel to the long axis of the church, with twenty-two paired crossbeams branching out from the center. “Jhesu Mercy / And Gramercy” is written twice on painted scrolls on each of these altar-side crossbeams but only once on those crossbeams and side facing away from the altar.10 The central beam’s scrolls are painted with the third portion of the Sarum litany, consisting of those portions between the litany of the saints and the te rogamus, laid out so that the set of phrases requesting those things that Christ should protect the speaker from appear on the northern part of the beam and thus are among what the speaker would first notice upon entering the chapel. The southern portion, closer to the altar, contains the set of phrases describing how Christ should protect the speaker. These painted scrolls, the scrolls containing the Lydgate poems, and the repeated phrase “Jhesu Mercy / And Gramercy” are all similar to other decorative panels in the church, now lost, based on a single surviving remnant outside of the Clopton chapel itself—a scroll reading “pro nobis” above the north clerestory. This uniformity of appearance indicates that despite its primary purpose as a chantry for the Clopton family, the chapel was also part of the church’s liturgical agenda beyond the tomb’s use as the Easter sepulcher.

The stanzas from the Testament appear on a carved and painted wooden frieze, and the stanzas from the “Quis Dabit” appear on a support beam, or bressummer, that is just below the noncontemporary window in the western wall today (Figure 2). While the Testament encompasses the entire roofline of the chantry, the “Quis Dabit” appears to have been intended to be part of a number of works on the western wall, including Latin texts derived from the ars moriendi and contemptus mundi traditions and the third Lydgate example—the single stanza from the “Balade at the Reverance of Our Lady” that appears under the squint (Figure 3). [End Page 82]

Fig. 2. West wall of the Clopton chantry chapel, Holy Trinity, Long Melford. The stanzas from the “Quis Dabit Meo Capiti Fontem Lacrimarum” run along the edge of the bressummer at the top of the picture, the Latin verses are beneath the bressummer, and the stanza from the “Balade at the Reverance of Our Lady” is beneath the squint on the left. Also notice the remnants of wall paintings along the wall to the right of the squint toward the chantry entrance.
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Fig. 2.

West wall of the Clopton chantry chapel, Holy Trinity, Long Melford. The stanzas from the “Quis Dabit Meo Capiti Fontem Lacrimarum” run along the edge of the bressummer at the top of the picture, the Latin verses are beneath the bressummer, and the stanza from the “Balade at the Reverance of Our Lady” is beneath the squint on the left. Also notice the remnants of wall paintings along the wall to the right of the squint toward the chantry entrance.

Fig. 3. Close-up of the “Balade at the Reverance of Our Lady” stanza, Clopton chantry chapel, Holy Trinity, Long Melford.
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Fig. 3.

Close-up of the “Balade at the Reverance of Our Lady” stanza, Clopton chantry chapel, Holy Trinity, Long Melford.

[End Page 83]

lydgate at long melford

As noted by J. B. Trapp, Gail McMurray Gibson, and David Griffith, the Testament and “Quis Dabit” appear together in Harley MS. 2255, the lyric collection made at Bury St. Edmunds and owned by William Curtys.12 Griffith also remarks that the two works appear together in four of the existing manuscripts. Harley 2255 is named explicitly as one of these four, and another, Harley 2251, is mentioned to have significant connections to the London book trade and “probably acted as ‘stock copies’ for book purchases amongst the same mercantile and legal circles in which Clopton had moved since the 1450’s.”13 Similarly, Gibson suggests that the Clopton family could have owned a copy of Lydgate’s devotional poems or that the copy of the lyrics owned by the abbey at Bury St. Edmunds could have served as the copy text for the inscriptions. She also affirms that Lydgate must have been known personally to Clopton, citing the patronage of the abbey by Clopton’s father and the close proximity between the abbot’s retreat at Melford Hall and the Clopton estate at Kentwell Hall.14 As the two poems are adjacent in four of the six extant witnesses for the “Quis Dabit,” it appears less than coincidental that the two poems appear together at Long Melford.15

While the chantry chapel mirrors the manuscript witnesses by placing the two poems in relation to each other, the presentation of the Testament in Long Melford’s extracodical context also intentionally shifts the underlying meaning of the work in a unique way. In roughly half of the versions of the Testament available in the Digital Index of Middle English Verse it appears to have been intentionally produced as a fragment, and while it is possible that some of the missing stanzas in the extant manuscripts were lost as a result of damage, title information and scribal practice in the surviving witnesses show that at least some of the fragments had their own poetic life and circulation.16 However, the Clopton stanzas do not simply excerpt a section or group of sections as the manuscripts do but, rather, are primarily selected from parts III and V of the Testament, with some of the concluding stanzas of part I and the final stanza of part II serving as a brief introduction.17 Nor are the excerptions simply the result of adapting the Testament to the space requirements of the Clopton chantry chapel.

The stanza taken from part II, number 56, is changed from rhyme royal (ababbcc) to an eight-line ballade stanza (ababbcbc). This change is [End Page 84] necessary because parts I, III, and V of the Testament are in the longer stanzaic form, while parts II and IV are in the shorter form:

Early English Text Society My wrecched lyf tamenden and correcte I me purpose, with support of thi grace, Thy deth thy passioun thy + crosse shall me directe, Which suffredest deth, Iesu, for our trespace. I, wrecche onworthy to lok vpon thy face, Thy fete enbracyng, fro which I shałł not twynne, Mercy requyryng, thus I wyłł begynne.18

Clopton Chapel O[..] wrecchid lif to amende and correcte we vs propose with support of th[.] grace thy deth thy passioun thy cros shall vs directe which suffredist deth ihesu for oure trespace w[.] wre[.]chis vnw[..]th[. ..] loke [..] thy face [.]hy feet enbrasyng [..]o which we shal[... .]wynne wyll we have here leisere tyme and sp[..]e mercy requyreng thus wole begynne

The choice to include stanza 56 but alter it to fit the visual appearance of the other stanzas in the chapel indicates that visual, rather than textual, consistency is privileged. Lydgate’s choices regarding stanzaic form are as incidental to the piece’s context at Long Melford as his choice to use the singular to indicate a personal testament to be read and reflected upon is in opposition to the chapel’s inclusive use of the plural. The interpolated line “wyll we have here leisere tyme and sp[ac]e” ties the living penitent there to contemplate Christ in the physical space of the chapel with the Clopton family, the twelve apostles who likely occupied niches in the southern wall of the chapel below the Testament stanzas, and the Virgin Mary, who dominates the poetic output of the chapel’s western wall. Rather than contemplation of Christ being an inward, mental action as it is in the codex—imagining the embrace of Christ’s feet—here the act of contemplation is tied to a physical location, Long Melford, and specifically to the Clopton chantry chapel. This implication that the act of contemplation is tied to a physical location turns what should be an inward act of contemplation into part of a public performance. [End Page 85]

The line’s inclusion of the word here also underscores a fundamental difference between the codex book as devotional object and the chapel as devotional space. Both patrons of the parish church and owners of such lay devotional objects as books of hours inserted themselves into the physical object through techniques like the inclusion of donor portraits in illustrations or on stained glass,19 but the codex’s devotional space was comparatively private and required penitents to imagine themselves inhabiting sacred space. The physicality of the chapel space, and indeed of the larger church as a whole, as a sanctified structure meant that rather than relying on an imagined sacred space, the penitent actually physically inhabited one while reading the text of the poem. Moreover, the public nature of the parish church meant that while reading the penitent would consider both the inward act of contemplative devotion and the outward act of performing that devotion for the larger world. The poem is not the sole vehicle for contemplation, as it would be in the surviving codex witnesses.

This transformation of inward contemplation from being grounded in the text to being part of a larger program in which the text is only a part is a principle of the alterations to the poem at Long Melford. The altered stanza is the only section of part II present, and the sections used from part I are taken out of order. Stanzas 29 and 30, which ordinarily come after Lydgate’s declaration that this is his testament, here come prior to the declaration in stanza 27. Part III has its affective, internally focused stanzas removed, while part IV, directly relating to Lydgate’s sins during his youth, his taking of orders, and the circumstances that caused him to write the poem in his old age, is entirely missing. What remains after these excerptions is a much more generic framework of declarations of Christ’s power and requests for his mercy. With the removal of these more affective and personal stanzas, the purpose of parts I–III on the southern, western, and northern walls of the chapel changes. Instead of a poem intended for the private devotion of a reader approaching contemplation using Lydgate’s described experience as a guide, the poem in the chapel is a public performance of piety in keeping with the positioning of the text around the corbels of the chapel and the inclusion of action on the part of the penitent when experiencing the verses.

This subsequent shift in tone to a public, outward-facing piety is also reinforced by the shift from the first-person singular to the first-person plural throughout the stanzas as they are presented at Long Melford. The use of we instead of I, when combined with the removal of the more internally reflective stanzas, presents the possibility that the “we” here could, as Jennfier Floyd notes, refer to the Clopton family in general.20 Coats of [End Page 86] arms still evident on the tomb as well as the descriptions of the chapel as “Mr. Clopton’s little chapel” and John Clopton as “one of [Mr. Clopton’s] ancestors” by Roger Martin in the sixteenth century suggest that this is one way the chapel was seen by the public.21 The role of the chantry chapel was not limited to a public representation of the Clopton family in the life of the church, however. Eamon Duffy notes that a chantry was valued at a parish church not only because of the benefits to the deceased who endowed it but also because it increased both the number and variety of masses available to parishioners.22 Moreover, as Roffey rightly states, chantries also “actively promoted inclusivity and communal participation” through visual accessibility via the same networks of squints seen at Holy Trinity.23 Furthermore, Clopton’s particular consideration of the community beyond his immediate family is underscored by the inscription on the north porch of Holy Trinity, which requests that viewers “pray . . . for þe sowle of Alice Clopton & for John Clopton, and for alle thoo sowlis þat the seyd John is bounde to prey for.” Similar pleas to consider souls that are “bound” can be seen in numerous requests to pray for friends, benefactors, and other nonfamily members alongside their kinsmen in the wills of Clopton’s contemporaries.

Of the 827 items in the register “Baldwyne,” ninety-four specifically request that people consider not only the makers of the wills but those they are “bound” to using the same phrasing that the inscription at Long Melford provides.24 In fact, Clopton’s will goes further, asking that the “ffader” of the priory of Sion have 6s 8d to “remember in xxti of hys masses my soule soules of my wif my ffader and my moder myn auncestoures and my children and of Sir Johnn Leynham and Dame Margarete hys wiff and for all the soules that the saide Johnn Clopton is bonde or indette to pray for and all christen soules.”25 Here Clopton has set up multiple groups that are to be prayed for within two broad categories: direct relations (parents, ancestors, wife and children) and those he is connected to by means other than blood (Sir John and Dame Margaret Lavenham, those he is bound to pray for, and all Christian souls). When combined with the visual evidence of the squint and the increase in opportunity for masses the chantry provided, the documentary evidence of the wills and the inclusion of the above inscription alongside the chantry suggests that we in the chantry chapel Testament represents that larger community. The performance of piety, connected to the larger community as a network of benefactors and obligations, is thus at the heart of who the chapel’s “we” represents.

The first stanza on the eastern wall also provides a telling indication that the change from singular to plural was a conscious decision on the part [End Page 87] of the artists working at Long Melford, rather than that they were copying from a now-lost exemplar. That wall consists of stanzas from part V, which is Christ’s response to the beseechers. Importantly, in the first line of the first stanza on that wall Christ asks the viewer to “lefte up thyn eye an see,” which is consistent with the text in the manuscript witnesses. The following line, however, changes the pronoun from the second-person singular to the second-person plural, indicating that the viewer should see “what mortall peyne i suffred for youre trespace.” This change continues throughout the remainder of the stanzas on the wall. When taken in combination with the shift in number of the other stanzas in the chapel, the external inscriptions, and the similarity of this language to that of Clopton’s will, it is clear that the designers of the chapel did not intend the space for the benefit solely of John Clopton, or even of Clopton’s family, but of all those Clopton felt spiritually bound and indebted to.

While that first stanza on the eastern wall requests that the viewer “behold” Christ—a statement that almost demands reference to the central events of Christological time—at the Clopton chapel the Christ who speaks does not provide details for the viewer to contemplate. Instead, the reader receives a strangely fixed and timeless account of Christ’s suffering. Christ immediately moves from the request that the reader “behold . . . what mortall peyne i suffred for your trespace” to the entreaty that the reader “behold myn loue & yeve me your ageyn.” Absent is Christ’s recounting of the events of the Crucifixion, which takes up stanzas 102–13 in the complete manuscript witnesses. The choice of the Clopton artists to remove these stanzas does not necessarily mean that the reader is intended to ignore the central moment in salvation history, however. The inclusion of stanza 101, with its direct injunctions to behold Christ’s wounds, his bloody face, and “therebukes”26 that “myn enemyes that don me so despice” inflict upon him, requires the reader to consider the events of salvation history as another act of performance. Rather than engaging with the textual account of these events, however, the reader of the Long Melford Testament knows them from other visual and performative sources available in the church. Most notably, the penitent contemplates Christ’s Passion by viewing the “goodly mount” Roger Martin describes, “carved very artificially” (in the archaic sense of being particularly well crafted, rather than false).27 When the missing mount—which could be seen from its position behind the altar through the opening created by John Clopton’s tomb—is considered as part of the full experience of the penitent, what appears to be missing is instead a cue to readers to contemplate the visual elements framed by [End Page 88] Clopton’s tomb when they first enter the space and kneel to pray. Another intriguing possibility is that the Clopton chapel may have contained a relic, purported to be a fragment of the column on which Christ was scourged. John Clopton willed this relic to his son William, who in turn either gave or loaned it to Holy Trinity. If William’s gift was relatively soon after his father’s death, it could be that penitents were able to use the relic in their contemplation alongside the other visual and textual cues.

Reminders of Christ’s suffering are therefore presented at Long Melford through physical, tangible objects that penitents can see in the chapel and through the tomb opening opposite the text. As such, there is no need to mention the extensive description Lydgate gives of Christ’s suffering until the penitent is turned away from the physical objects and reading the text along the northern wall. The Crucifixion itself is represented by the visual signifiers in a much more affective way than Lydgate’s words alone could accomplish, but the text serves as a means to cue that contemplation. Depictions of Christ’s suffering at Long Melford are mediated thereby through the combination of visual and textual elements in much the same way that access to the high altar is mediated through the series of squints. Clopton’s tomb, as the frame through which this occurs, directly connects him to the contemplative act of the penitent at Long Melford; underscores the importance of his requests that people outside of the church remember him, his family, and members of the larger community; and reinforces the chapel’s role as a conduit between Christ and the religious life of the parish. Once the penitent has completed this act of contemplation, the remaining stanzas—focusing on Christ’s mercy and the remission of sin rather than his suffering— can be taken as a promise of forgiveness for a reader who would have considered them alongside the visual and liturgical elements associated with the chantry altar.

the clopton “quis dabit”

The Clopton “Quis Dabit” only has six of the nineteen stanzas of the manuscript witnesses, chosen to reinforce Christ’s death on the cross as the savior of mankind and the Virgin Mary’s role as intercessor. The absent stanzas deal with the Virgin’s suffering and the events of the Passion, and their absence removes an important theme found in all of the surviving manuscript witnesses.28 Stanza 4, where the Virgin requests of the “doughters of ierusaleem” that they “come neer of routhe & helpe me for to wepe,” [End Page 89] is the closest the Long Melford “Quis Dabit” comes to the extensive meditation on the Virgin’s suffering experienced by readers of other witnesses of the text. Instead of the focus on affective meditation and the act of performing piety that Christ’s words on the opposite wall invoke, here the stanzas appear to be about establishing the bona fides of the speaker.

Although badly damaged, the figure to the left of the first “Quis Dabit” stanza on this wall is the Virgin (Figure 4). She lacks the blue cloak commonly associated with her, however. Instead, her cloak appears red underneath her white mantle, which may be in part why Trapp assumes that the figure is “a hooded female penitent, presumably the Magdalen herself.”29

Fig. 4. Hooded female figure, likely the Virgin, from the Clopton chantry chapel, Holy Trinity, Long Melford.
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Fig. 4.

Hooded female figure, likely the Virgin, from the Clopton chantry chapel, Holy Trinity, Long Melford.

Even ignoring the evidence of the text of the poem, this interpretation is unlikely because the Magdalene is usually seen either with her hair unbound or carrying the alabastrum, in keeping with her role as a symbol of contrition and penance. Indeed, the stained glass now in the windows of the north aisle of Holy Trinity shows a figure with both unbound hair and alabastrum (Figure 5), indicating that the artists and artisans knew of this depiction of Mary Magdalene during the renovation of the church. The figure accompanying the “Quis Dabit” stanzas lacks either. Instead it is more likely that, as Gibson and Floyd indicate, this figure is meant to be the Virgin and exists as a visual adjunct to the textual reminder of her intercessory role in the chantry chapel.30 Additionally, the figure of the Virgin seen in the stained [End Page 90] glass Pietà on the northern aisle (Figure 6)—here as absent of outward sign of suffering as she is in the Clopton “Quis Dabit”—wears a red cloak under a white mantle, similar to how she is depicted in the Clopton chantry.

Fig. 5. The Magdalene, with her unbound hair and alabastrum, from the stained glass currently in the north aisle of the nave of Holy Trinity, Long Melford.
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Fig. 5.

The Magdalene, with her unbound hair and alabastrum, from the stained glass currently in the north aisle of the nave of Holy Trinity, Long Melford.

Moreover, the position of the stanzas on the western wall, when considered in relation to the Testament stanzas on the surrounding corbels, indicates that their purpose here was not to introduce the Christ who speaks in the stanzas from the Testament on the opposite wall. Instead, they are a final reminder to penitents after they have gone through the process of reading the Testament. Penitents would have focused on the southern wall upon walking into the room, most likely fixated on the altar in the chapel or the glimpse of the high altar afforded by the opening in Clopton’s tomb. From there they would have been led visually to the hand holding the scroll, signifying the beginning of a text, and proceeded through the western and northern walls before finally settling on the words above the chapel altar, where Christ is the speaker. Only when penitents turned to leave would the [End Page 91] “Quis Dabit” stanzas have been immediately noticeable. When combined with the likelihood that the “Balade” had at least four more stanzas in the Clopton chapel alongside the single stanza currently surviving, the western wall appears to be dedicated in part to the Virgin Mary, serving as a means of connecting the Clopton chapel to the larger Lady Chapel attached to the eastern side of the church proper.31

Fig. 6. Pietà from the stained glass along the north aisle of the nave of Holy Trinity, Long Melford, with the Virgin wearing the red cloak seen in the Clopton chantry’s Mary image.
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Fig. 6.

Pietà from the stained glass along the north aisle of the nave of Holy Trinity, Long Melford, with the Virgin wearing the red cloak seen in the Clopton chantry’s Mary image.

Structurally the layout of the Lady Chapel is similar to that of the Holy House at Walsingham, with an interior stone shrine surrounded by an aisle on all four sides.32 As G. H. Cook notes, this arrangement “suggests that it was a relic chapel and . . . the resort of pilgrims.”33 Furthermore, the 1529 inventory of the holdings of Holy Trinity indicates that it contained a cult statue of the Virgin Mary given an enormous amount of offerings in silver, clothing, and jewels.34 Besides the abundant offerings, which likely came from pilgrims, the statue had a “Coat of Crimson Velvet,” which would fit the image both in the Clopton chapel and on the stained glass of the north aisle.35 [End Page 92]

As mentioned, Clopton was directly involved in the “garnysshyng of oure Lady Chapell and of the cloister ther abowte,” providing one hundred marks for the purpose. Much like the north porch of the church proper, the Lady Chapel also has an inscription surrounding it requesting that the viewer “pray . . . for John Clopton and for all his childrin and for all þe soulis that the said Johnn is bounde to pray for.” The added distinction made here—that the viewer is to pray both for his children and for the souls of others whom John Clopton was required to pray for—mirrors his will and reinforces that the “we” indicated by the Clopton chapel’s version of the Testament is not solely the Clopton family but a larger web of individuals whom Clopton was spiritually beholden to, up to and including the entire community for whom Holy Trinity was renovated.

The appearance of the “Quis Dabit” on the western wall serves, then, as a reminder to the penitent of the Virgin Mary’s intercessory role and suggests a visit to the Lady Chapel so conveniently placed as a pilgrimage site. When it is combined with the Testament stanzas, both poems function together to suggest that readers direct their thoughts not only toward their own salvation but also to the memory of John Clopton and those along with whom he wished to be commemorated—a suggestion that is reinforced by the inscription on the Lady Chapel. Those elements in the poems that would ordinarily assist readers in directing their inward thoughts toward their own sins or the suffering of Christ and the Virgin are removed. Instead, penitents were assisted by visual elements that are now missing— the mount and the statue of the Virgin in the Lady Chapel—in their meditation on Christ’s and the Virgin’s suffering. This associates the penitents’ prayers either directly with Clopton’s tomb, as the mount had to be viewed through the space formed by the open tomb canopy, or indirectly through suggesting that they go to the Lady Chapel, with its external inscription requesting that they remember and pray for Clopton and his associates. Intriguingly, scrollwork panels like those the Testament appears on in the Clopton chapel are in the Lady Chapel as well (Figure 7).

There are forty-four panels along the interior side of the four aisles and two groups of thirty-nine and thirty-four surrounding the exterior sides, respectively, with one section of panels in the western wall missing. While the thoroughness with which the panels were scrubbed clean of text precludes any identification of what stanzas might have been there, the layout of the panels indicates three separate poems, and the nature of the chapel almost demands that they be on the subject of the Virgin. Considering Lydgate’s extensive oeuvre regarding her, it does not seem unduly speculative to assume that his poetry was used here as well. [End Page 93]

Fig. 7. Example of the paneling in the Lady Chapel of Holy Trinity, Long Melford. The layout, including the vine motif and hand, is similar to that in the Clopton chantry chapel.
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Fig. 7.

Example of the paneling in the Lady Chapel of Holy Trinity, Long Melford. The layout, including the vine motif and hand, is similar to that in the Clopton chantry chapel.

Through the placement of the particular Lydgate stanzas at Long Melford in specific architectural contexts, the author’s statement that the Testament serves as “a trites of surfetes don” to Christ by Lydgate as an individual is subsumed by its inclusion in a textual program extending from the chantry chapel through to the Lady Chapel and dedicated, at least in part, to the memory of John Clopton, his children, and those most intimately connected to him.36 Rather than the personal testament of Lydgate (or, at its broadest, of the individual reader who sees him-or herself in Lydgate’s words), the stanzas in this architectural context become a text in stone, paint, and wood, read by the parishioners and pilgrims in the performance of their piety and dedicated to the salvation of the “we” Clopton indicates: Long Melford as a whole.

appendix: lydgate and the clopton chantry chapel

Because the entire Testament and “Quis Dabit” do not appear in the chapel, Trapp does not attempt to transcribe the “Quis Dabit,” and some restoration has occurred since Trapp’s article, I have included a transcription of the stanzas at Long Melford alongside the MacCracken edition. [End Page 94] The stanzas begin with the hand holding the scroll at the southeastern corner of the chantry in the case of the Testament and the image of the Virgin near the tomb in the case of the “Quis Dabit.” I have not included the text of the “Balade” stanza as that can be found in Griffith’s excellent Notes and Queries piece. Images of the panels alongside their transcription, as well as a partial three-dimensional model of the chapel, can be found at

The partial damage to some of the lines at Long Melford has caused me to use the following guidelines in my transcription:

  1. 1. If the spelling of a word can be determined from what remains, I use that spelling whether or not individual letter forms are too damaged to recognize.

  2. 2. Where a word or a line is too damaged to comfortably determine the spelling—for example, if only the bottom portion of a number of minims remains or a number of letters are missing—the letters have been omitted, and the space has been indicated by square brackets: []. In these cases, the number of likely letters has been indicated via a series of dots: [...]. I have included a note regarding what I believe the intended spelling to be when such speculation could be done.

  3. 3. When I feel that a spelling is correct but ambiguity remains or peculiarities in the text warrant it, I have included a note explaining my logic in determining the spelling.

  4. 4. When more than one note is necessary on a line I include a single note, marked at the end of the line. This single comment will mention everything that needs to be discussed.

clopton early english text society
Southern Wall Early English Text Society Testament
Now in the name of oure lord ihesus (29)
Now in the name of my lord Iesus,
of right hool herte & in oure37 best entent Of right hole herte in all my best entent,
oure lyf remembryng froward and vicious My lif remembryng, forward & vicious,
ay contrarye to the comaundement Ay contrarye to the comaundement
of crist ihesu now wyth avisement Of Cryst Iesu, now with avisement
the lord beseching [..] mercy and pete The lord besechyng, to haue mercy and piete,
oure youthe & age that we have myspent My youthe, mytn age, hou þat I haue myspente,
wyth this woord mercy knelyng on oure kne With this word seid knelyng on my kne.
O ihesu mercy wyth support of thyn grace (30)
O Iesu, mercy! with support of thi grace,
for thyn meke passioun remembre oure compleynt For thi meke passioun, remember on my complaynt!
duryng oure lyf with many gret trespace Durying my lyf, with many gret trespace,
by many wrong path where we haue myswent By many wrong path, where I haue myswente,
we now purpose by grace influent I now purpose, be thy grace influent,
calle to remembraunce of surfetis don to the To wryte a trites of surfetes don to the,
[... ...... ..] oure laste testament And calle[n] it my last[e] testament,
wyth ihesu mercy knelyng on oure kne With Iesu mercy knelyng on my kne,
And vnder support ihesu of thyn favoure (27)
And vndir supporte, Iesu, of thy fauour
or we passe hens this is hooly oure entent Or I passe hens, this hoolly myn entent,
to make the ihesu to be chef survioure To make Iesu to be chief surveiour
of oure laste wyll set in oure testament Of my laste wille sette in my testament
weche of oure self be insufficient Whiche of myself am Insufficient
to rekene or counte but mercy and pite To rekene or counte, but mercy & piete
be preferred or thou do iugement Be preferryd, or thou do Iugement,
to vs that calle to the ihesu on oure kne To alle that calle to Iesu on ther kne.
O[..] wrecchid lif to amende and correcte (56)
My wrecched lyf tamenden and correcte
we vs propose with support of thy grace I me purpose, with support of thi grace,
thy deth thy passioun thy cros shall vs directe Thy deth thy passioun thy + crosse shall me directe,
which suffredist deth ihesu for oure trespace Which suffredest deth, Iesu, for our trespace.
w[.] wrecchis vnworthy to loke on thy face I, wrecche onworthy to lok vpon thy face,
thy feet enbrasyng fro which we shalnot twynne Thy fete enbracyng, fro which I shall not twynne,
wyll we have here leisere tyme and space38
mercy requyreng thus wole begynne Mercy requyryng, thus I wyll begynne.
O myghty lord of power myghtyest (57)
O mighty lord, of powere myghtyest!
wyth oute whom al force is febylnesse Without whom alle force is febylnesse,
bounteuous ihesu of goode goodlyest Bovntevous Iesu! of gode godlyest
mercy to graunte er thou thy domys dresse39 Mercy thy bedel, or thou thy domes dresse,
delayest rigour to punnysshe oure wikkednesse Dylayest rigour, to punishe my wykednesse,
[...]ge[.. ......]g [...]h[...] to [..] vengeance Lengest abydyng, lothest to do vengeaunce,
o blissed ihesu of thy hygh goodnesse O blessed Iesu! of thyn high goodnesse,
graunte or we deye shrifte hosyl and repentance Graunt or I deye, shryfte, hosel, repentaunce.
Though thou be myghty þou art eke mercyable (58)
Though thou be myghty, thou art eke mercyable,
to alle folkis that mekely theym repente To alle folkes that mekely hem repente;
we wrecchis contrarious40 and culpale I a wrecche contagyous and coupable,
to alle outragis redy to assent To alle outrages redy for tassent,
but of hool herte and will in oure entent But of hole herte and wyll in myn entent,
of olde and newe all vicious gouerance Of olde and new all vicious gouernaunce,
of youthe or age and of tyme mys spent Of youthe, of age, and of mystyme spent.
graunte orwe deye shrifte hosill and repentance. Graunte or I deye, shryft, hosel, repentaunce.
Of oure confessioun receive the sacrifice (59)
Of my confessioun receyve the sacryfice
by oure tonge offerid vnto the Be my tunge vp offered onto the,
that we may seyn in all oure best guyse That I may seyn in all my best[e] guyse
meekly with dauyd haue on vs merce Mekely with Dauid, have mercy vpon me!
saue alle oure sores that they not cankered be Sa[l]ue alle my sores, that they ne cankred be,
with non olde rust of disesperance With noon olde rust of dysesperaunce;
whiche of hool herte knelynge on oure kne Which of hole herte crye vpon my kne
graunte or we deye shrifte hosell and repentance Graunt or I deye, shryfte, hosel, repentaunce.
Western Wall (60)
O ihesu [... .... ... .......] O Iesu! Iesu! here myn orisoun;
[...... ... ....... ..... ... ..........] Brydel myn outrage vnder thy discipline;
[ .. ] Fetre sensualite, enlumyne my resound,
to fol[... ... ...... .. .......... ........] To folowe the traces of spirituall doctrine;
lete thy [..... ....] vs right as alyne Lat thi grace lede me as right as lyne
with vmbill herte toleve to thyn plesance With humble herte, to lyve to thy plesaunce;
and blissed ih esu or we this lyf shalfyne And blyssed Iesu! or I this lyf shal fine,
graunte orwe deye shrifte hosell and repentance Graunt or I deye, shryfte, hosel, repentaunce.
We be [....]ed and moeued of [......] (63)
I am excited and meved of nature
[.... .... .....] souereynly to preyse This name Iesu souereynly to preyse;
[.... ......... .... ...... .. .........] Name commended most highly in scripture,
which [.... ..... .... ..... .... ... .. .....] Which name hath powere dede men to reyse
[.. ... ........ .... ..... .... .. .....] To lyf eternall, whos vertu doth so peyse,
ageyn oure synnys weyed in [.......] Ageyn my synnes weyed in balaunce
[.... .... ... .....] shal [.. ............] That grace and mercy shal so counterpeyse,
graunte or [.. ....] shrifte hosyll & repentance Graunt or I deye shryfte, hosel, repentaunce.
Our f[...]h our e hope t[. ... ... .... .....] (65)
My feyth, myn hope, to the Iesu doth calle,—
[...... ........ .... ..... ..... ... .. ... .....] Whiche glorious name shall never out of my mende.
[.. ..... ... .... ....] happe that euer b[......] I shall the seke what happe that euer befalle,
b[. ... ... ... .. ..... .. .....] the fynde Be grace and mercy, in trust I shal the fynde;
[... ... .. .... ...... .. ....] vnkynde And but I dede, trewly I were vnkynde,
whiche for oure sake [....] perced with alaunce Which for my sake were perced with a launce,
vnto the herte lefte not be hynde41 Onto the herte, Iesu! left not behynde
graunte or we deye shrifte hosell & repentance Graunt or I deye, shryfte, hosel, repentaunce.
There is no [... ...] bo[. ... ....]ne (66)
Ther is no God, Iesu, but thou allone;
[.......... ... ... .... .........] Souerynest, and eke most mercyfull,
[.......] of fayre erly late and sone Fayrest of fayre! erly, late and sone,
stable [...] most strong pytous [...] rightfull Stable, and most strong, pietous and rightfull,
[.........] sinnerys that be in vertu dull Reformyng synneres that ben in vertu dull,
[........ ...] proude meknesse to enhaunce Dauntyng the proude, mekenesse to enhaunce,
thy tonne of mercy euere ye [....] full Thy tunne of mercy is euer a-liche full;
graunte or we deye shrifte hosell and repentau nce. Graunt or I deye, shryft, hosel, repentaunce.
(68) Dic anime mee salus tua ego sum.51
Sey to oure soules [...] thou art [...] helthe Sey to my soule, Iesu, thou art myn helthe.
heryng this voys after we shal [...] sue Heryng this voys, after I shal pursue;
scoure that place from al gostly felthe Skoure that place from all gostly fylthe,
and vices all from thens doremewe42 And vices alle fro thens to remewe,
thyn holy gost close in that little mewe Thyn Holy Gost close in that lytel mewe;
parte not lyghtly make suche cheuesaunce Part not lyghtly, make soche chevisaunce,
to encrese in vertu and vices to eschewe Tencrece in vertu and vices to eschewe,
and or we deye [...]e shrift hosell & [..........]43 And or I deye shryft, hosel, repentaunce.
(69) Illustra faciem tuam super seruum tuum.52
[..... .... ... .... ... ... ..... .... .....] Shewe glad thy face, and thy light doun shede,
t[.. ........ ..... .. .... .... ......] The merciful light of thyn ey3en tweyne
o[. .. ... ......... .... .... .. ...]he nede On me thi servaunt which hath so moch nede
for our synnys to we[.. ... .....]eyne For his synnes to wepe[n] and compleyne.
and blyssed ihesu of thyn mercy not disdeyne And blyssed Iesu! of mercy not disdeyne
thyn gracious shoures lete re[... .. ..........] Thi gracious shoures lat reyne in abundaunce
[.... ... ...... .. ..... ..... .....] Vpon myn herte, tadewen euery veyne,
[... .. .. .... ..... ...... ... ..........] And or I deye shryft, hosel, repentaunce.
Northern Wall (70) Saluum me fac in misercordia tua domine.53
Save vs thyn seruantes olord in thyn mercy Saue me thy seruaunt, O lord! in thy mercy,
for lak of whiche late vs not be confundid For lak of which lat me not be confounded,
for [.. ... ...] oure hope stant fynally For in the, Iesu, myn hope stant fynally,
[... ... ... .... ..] the ihesu is groundid, And all my trust in the Iesu is grounded,
for oure [...... ......] ihes u thou were woundid For my synnes thynke, Iesu, thou were wounded,
naked on the roode by mortall gret penauannce Naked on the rode be mortall gret penaunce,
by whiche the power of satan was confundid Be which the power of Sathan was confounded,
graunte or we deye shrifte hosell and repentaunce Graunt or I deye shryfte, hosel, repentaunce.
With wepyng eyen and contrite chiere (74)
With wepyng eyen and contrite chere,
[.....]te vs ihesu and oure compleyn conceyue Accepte me, Iesu, and my compleynt conceive,
[.. ....] vnworthy tofor th[.] t[.... ......]44 As most onworthy tappere at thyn autere,
whiche in our e self[.] no vertu aperceyue Which in my-self no vertu apparceyve,
but of thyn m ercy [..] grace vs receyue But yf thy mercy be grace me receyve,
by synfull leuynge brought [.]nto owtraunce Be sinful leuyng brought onto outraunce,
praye we with good hope which may vs not deceyue Pray with good hope, which may not disseyve,
graunte or we deye shrifte hosell and repentaunce Graunt or I deye shryfte, hosel, repentaunce.
Cryenge to the t[... ....... ..] the [.....] (75)
Creyeng to the, that deydest on the rode,
which with thyn blood were s[......] and made [....] Which with thy blood were steyned & made reed,
and on sherthursday gaf vs to [...] foode And on Sherthursday gaf vs to our fode
Thyn blissed body ihesu in forme of breed Thi blessed body, Iesu, in forme of brede,
to vs most synfull graunte or we be ded To me most synfull graunt or I be ded,
to [...... .. ....]y f[.. ... ...]er[.......] To cleyme be mercy for myn enheritaunce,
that wyth sharp thorne were crowne on t[..] hed That with sharp thorne were crovned on þi hed,
or we passe hens shrifte hosell and repentaunce Or I passe hens shryfte, hosel, and repentaunce.
And yit on request in especiall (76)
And one request in especiall,
graunte vs ihesu whill we be here alyue Graunt me, Iesu, whil I am here a-lyve,
euyre to haue enprynted in oure memoriall Euere to haue prented in my memoriall,
the rememberaunce of thyn woundes fyue The remembraunce of thy woundes five,
nayles with the spere that dyd thyn herte ryue Nayles with the spere that dyd thyn herte ryve,
t[.. ......] of thorn which was no smal penaunce Thy croune of thorne, which was no small penaunce,
lang[.... ... ..... .]s duely to shriue Language and tunge, me dewly for to shryve,
the holy vncioun shrifte hosell and repentaunce The holy vnccioun, shryft, hosel, repentaunce.
Alle the tok[...]s of thyn passioun (77)
Alle the toknes of thy passioun,
we praye45 the ihesu grave hem in oure memorie I prey the, Iesu, grave hem in my memorye
onely marked myd centre of oure resoun Dewly mark myd Centre of my resound,
on calverie thyn tryumphal [........] On Calvery thy triumphall victorie
man to restore to thyn eternall g[.....] Man to restore to thyn eternall glorie
by mediacoun of thyn meke sufferauns46 Be meditacioun of thi meke sufferaunce,
out of the exile vnsure and transitorie Out of this exile, vnseur and transitorye,
whan we hens passe shrift hosell and repentaunce And whan I passe shryfte, hosel,
Of mercy requyreng now in tyme (78)
Of thy mercy requyryng the to myne
of oure myende the myd poynte most profounde Of my mende the mydpoynt most profounde,
this woord ihesu our fyue wittes to enlumyne This word Iesu my .v. wittes tenlumyne,
in lenghte and brede lyk alarge wounde In length & brede like a large wounde,
alle idill thoughtis a voyde and confounde Alle ydel thoughtes tavoyde hem and confounde,
thyn cros thyn scorges thyn garnemetes cast at chaunce Thi cros, thy skorges, thy garnement cast at chaunce,
the roop the peler to wheche thou were bounde The rope, the peler to which thowe were bounde,
graunte or we deye shrifte hosell and repentaunce Graunt or I deye, shryft, hosel, repentaunce.
Of this prayere mekely we make an ende (79)
Of this prayere mekely I make an ende,
vndcr thyn mercyfull supportacioun Vnder thy mercyfull supportacioun,
o gracious ihesu graunte where euer we wende O gracious Iesu, graunt where-euere I wende,
to haue memorie vp on thyn passioun To haue memorie vpon thi passioun,
testymonyall of oure redemcioun Testimonyal of my redempcioun,
[.. ... ......... ... ... ..........]47 In my testament set for allegeaunce,
[.... ...... .... .. ... ........] This clause last of my peticioun,
[..... .. .. .... ..... ...... . ...........] Graunt or I deye shryft, hosel, repentaunce!
Eastern Wall (101)
Behold o man lefte up thyn eye an see48 Beholde, o man! lyft vp thyn eye, and see
what mortall peyne i suffred for youre trespace What mortall peyne I suffer for thi trespace,
with pitous voys i crye and seye to the With piteous voys I crye, and sey to the,
behold my n woundes behold myn blody face Beholde my woundes, behold my blody face,
behold therebukes þat doth me so manace Beholde the rebukes that do me so manace,
behold myn [.....]es that don me so despice Beholde my enemyes that do me so despice,
And how that i to reforme [...] to grace And how that I to reforme the to grace,
was like alambe offerid [..] sacrifice Was like a lambe offred in sacryfice.
Behold myn loue & yeue me youre ageyn (114)
Behold my loue, and gyf me thyn ageyn,
be hold i deied youre ranssum for to paye Behold, I deyde thy raunsom for to paye,
se how myn herte open b[....] and pleyn Se howe myn herte is open brode and pleyn,
youre gostly enmyes only to affraye Thy gostly enemyes onely to affraye,
a hardere batayle no man myght [.....] An hardere batayle no man might assaye,
of alle tryumphes the grettest high [.......] Of all tryumphes the grettest hye empryse,
wherfore ye men no lenger [.. ......]e Wher-for, O man! no longer to dismaye,
i gaf myn blood for you in sacrifice I gaf for the my blood in sacryfice.
Turne hom a geyn youre synnys ye for sake, (115)
Turne home ageyn, thy synne do forsake,
be hold and se if ought beleft behynde Behold and se yf ought be left behynde,
how i to mercy am redy you to take, How I to mercy am redy the to take,
gyue [.. ....] hertes and beth no more vnkynde Gyf me thyn herte and be no more vnkynde;
youre loue & myn to gedir doth hem bynde Thy loue and myn, togedyr do hem bynde,
and lete hem neuere parte in no wyse And late hem neuer parte in no wyse,
whan ye were lost yo[..] s[....]s a [...] tofynde Whan thou were lost, thy sowle ageyn to fynde
myn blod i offerid for you [..] sacrifice My blod I offred for the in sacryfice.
Enprynte theise thyng in youre inward thought (116)
Emprente thes thynges in thyn inward thought,
and graue hem depe in youre remembraunce And graue hem depe in thy remembraunce,
thynke on theym wel & forgete theym nought Thynke on hem [wel], and forget hem nowght,
al this i suffred to don you allegeaunce Al this I suffred to do the allegeaunce,
and with myn seyntis toyeve you sufficiaunce And with my seyntes to yeve the suffisaunce,
[..] the hevenly courte for you i did deuyse In the hevenly court for the I do devyse
a place eternal a place of all pleasuance A place eternall, a place of all pleasuance,
for which myn blood i offerid gaffid in sacrifice49 For which my blood I gaf in sacryfice.
And [....] myn [...] to put at a preff (117)
And more my mercy to putte att a preef,
t[. ..... ....... .... ... .. .... .. .....] To euery synnere that non ne shal it mysse,
[........ ... . ... ... .. ..... .. ... .....] Remembre how I gaf mercy to the theef,
w[....] had so [..... ........ ... .... ....] Which hadde so longe trespaced and doon amys;
w[...] he not frely wyth me to paradys Went he not freely with me to paradise?
haue this in mynde this is myn guyse Have this in mende, how it is my guyse
all repentaunt to bryng theym toblys All repentaunt to bring hem to my blysse,
for whom my blood i gaf in sacrifice For whom my blood I gaf in sacryfice.
[..... .. ...... ....d youre heritage (118)
Tarye no lenger toward thyn heritage,
haste on youre weye and beth of right [....] cheer e Hast on thy weye and be of right good chere,
[..] eche day onward on youre pylgrymage Go eche day onward on thy pylgrymage,
[........] how short tyme ye shal a[..... ....] Thynke howe short tyme thou hast abyden here;
[.... ..... .. ...... ..... ... ....... .....]50 Thy place is bygged aboue the sterres clere,
non erthely paleys [....... .. .. ...... ....] Noon erthly palys wrought in so statly wyse,
cometh on myn frendes myn [.......] most entyere Kome on my frend, my brother most entere!
for you i offerd myn blood in sacryfice For the I offered my blood in sacryfice!

[End Page 107]

“Quis Dabit Meo Capiti Fontem Lacrimarum”

Unlike the stanzas from the Testament, there are very few letter forms on these panels that are not in some way damaged. My general practice in transcribing this is similar to that used for the Testament: where spelling can be determined from the remaining letter forms I have done so, referring to the other manuscript witnesses or practice elsewhere in the chapel when necessary. Otherwise I have included only those letters whose form I could be sure of and left the rest as gaps, indicated by dots following either the number of letters on the panel or, in those cases where the damage was so extensive that nothing remains, the likely layout of the letters based on context. Notes will be used here when the damage was extensive enough that my reasoning for the spelling chosen should be explained.

clopton early english text society
Early English Text Society “Quis Dabit Meo Capiti Fontem Lacrimarum”
[. ..... ....... ... ... .. .... .... ..]ke (8)
O peple onkynde! why wil ye noon heed take
to [..] the lord [.. ..... ...... ... .....]e To se the lord of helle, erthe, and hevene,
meke as alambe thus offerid for youre sake Meek as a lamb, thus offred for your sake,
to sle þe drago un with his hedes seuene To sle the dragoun with his hedys sevene,
dauntyng the power of his infernall leuene Dauntyng the power of his Infernal levene,
out of his thraldom to make you goo free Out of his thraldam to make yow go ffre,
[.... .... .]o w[.....]s than [...] man kan54 neuene With many mo wowndys than any man can nevene
[.... .. .. ....... ... ....... ..] atree Whan he at Calvary was naylled to a tre?
O alle ye [........]s of ierusaleem (4)
O alle ye doughtren of Ierusaleem,
haue [...] com[........ .. .. ..... .....] Haue som compassioun of my sihes deepe,
not like the glad[..... .... .] h[.... .. ...] leem Nat lyk the gladnesse wich I hadde in Bedleem,
come neere of routhe & helpe me for to [....] Kom neer of routhe and helpe me for to wepe,
a swerde of deth [.... ....]gh [... .....] crepe A swerd of deth doth thoruh myn herte crepe,
i fele it well of [......]y p[...] I ffele it ffull well of modyrly pyte.
[............ ....] deth swownyng [. .]o slepe Craunpisshed with deth swownyng I do slepe,
to see myn [.... .... ....... .. . ..]e To se my sone thus naylled to a tre.
For mannys love he f[.]ught [. ....] batail (14)
For manhis love he faught a gret batayll,
with his seuene heedes he outrayed the dragon With his sevene hedys he outrayed the dragoun,
lyke myghty sampsoun wythoute plate or maile Lyk myhty Sampson with-oute plate or mayll,
[..] his stronge fight he strangled the lyoun In his strong ffyght he strangeled the lyoun,
this was myn sone mankyndes champyoun55 Thus was my sone mankyndys Champyoun,
th[.]rgh his [.... ......] magnanymyte Thorugh his most myghty magnanymyte
[.. ....] & bysshop [.... ... oblacioun As kyng and bysshop made his oblacyoun
vpon þe high [.....] of the roode tre Vpon the hih auhter of the Roode tre,
Thus deth [.... .... ........... ... ...... ....] (17)
Thus deth with deth was outraied and brought lowe,
mank[..]des quarell made [..........] Mankyndys quarrel maad vyctoryous,
for thann leuyathan [... ...... ... ..........] For thane leviathan was bounde and over-throwe,
[.... ....] hys tryumphes most syngulere glorious Whan with his tryvmphes most synguler glorious,
myn sone had foughte with his b[....] pre[.]ious My sone had faught with his blood precious,
conquerid þe [......] for al his feel [...]st Conqueryd the dragoun for al his ffel pouste,
and draue hym h[.. ..] his infernall hous And dryue hym home to his Infernall hous,
whan firste myn sone was nayled to atre Whan first my sone was naylled to a tre.
Lete [..... ...] [..] hys [.....] take [.....]56 (18)
Let euery man in his mater take heede,
[...] euery ww[..... .. ....] world alyue And euery woman in this world a-lyve
come neer to me to [...] his woundes b[.....] Come ner to me to seen his woun-dys bleede,
hys [....] his deth his ky[......... .. .....] y[..] His love, his deth, his kyndenesse to descryve,
to see the mysteries of his [.......] fyue To se the mysteryes of his woundys ffyve,
as bawme & triacle of most [..........] As bawme and tryacle of most souereynte
cleerly .......... ..] fynde socour [.....]e Cleerly dystyllyng to fynde socour blyve,
d[... ... .. .... ...... .. . ...] Down fro my sone [I]nayllyd to a tre.
Truste in his [..... ... . ... .. .. .....] (19)
Trust in his mercy and I wyl go be tween,
and vmbuly knele [.. .... ... .]a[..] And humbly knele be forn hys fface,
f[..] al[........ .. ......... ... ....] For almankynde be medyatrix and mene,
[.. ...... .... .. ...... .. ........] Of sinful folk to releve the trespace,
[.... .. .... ......... .... .... ... ......] That he with vengaunce shal them nat manace,
lyke ther e demerites to shewe his cruelte Lyk ther dysmeritees to shewe his cruelte,
but shewe to them his mercy and his [....] But shewe to them his mercy and his grace,
[.... ...] there loue57 That for ther love was naylled to a tre.

[End Page 110]

Matthew Evan Davis
McMaster University


Color Versions of figures 27 are available online at The figures can also be viewed in color in the online version of this article through JSTOR or Project Muse.

Images of the panels referenced in this article can be found at and Also, a partial three-dimensional model of the chapel can be found here:

1. Will of John Clopton, PROB 11/11/142–44, National Archives, London; will of Robert Sparrow, IC500/2/10, f., Sudbury Record Office, Sudbury, U.K. Clopton’s will may also be seen in David P. Dymond and Clive Paine’s Five Centuries of an English Parish Church: ‘The State of Melford Church,’ Suffolk (Cambridge: EAH Press, 2012).

2. William Parker, The History of Long Melford (London: Wyman and Sons, 1873); Anthony Bale, “From Translator to Laureate: Imagining the Medieval Author,” Literature Compass 5, no. 5 (2008): 918–34; Jennifer Floyd, “Lydgate’s Architectural Verses” (Ph.D. diss., Stanford University, 2008); Gail McMurray Gibson, “Long Melford Church, Suffolk: Some Suggestions for the Interdisciplinary Study of English Medieval Drama and the Visual Arts,” Research Opportunities in Renaissance Drama 21 (1978): 105–15; Gail McMurray Gibson, “Bury St. Edmunds, Lydgate, and the N-Town Cycle,” Speculum 56 (1981): 56–90; Gail McMurray Gibson, Theater of Devotion: East Anglian Drama and Society in the Late Middle Ages (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989); Simon Horobin, “Politics, Patronage, and Piety in the Work of Osbern Bokenham,” Speculum 82, no. 4 (2007): 932–49.

3. David Griffith, “A Newly Identified Verse Item by John Lydgate at Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford, Suffolk,” Notes and Queries 58, no. 3 (September 2011): 364–67; J. B. Trapp, “Verses by Lydgate at Long Melford,” Review of English Studies, N.S., 6, no. 21 (1955): 1–11.

4. Lydgate wrote his Legend of St. George for public display at the armorer’s guild of London, but these verses do not survive as painted or textile inscriptions. They do survive in four manuscript witnesses. For more information, see DIMEV 4108, Digital Index of Middle English Verse, accessed April 26, 2014,; and Jennifer Floyd, “St. George and the ‘Steyned Halle’: Lydgate’s Verse for the London Armourers,” in Lydgate Matters: Poetry and Material Culture in the Fifteenth Century, ed. Lisa H. Cooper and Andrea Denny-Brown (New York: Palgrave, 2008), 139–64. [End Page 111]

5. Simon Roffey, The Medieval Chantry Chapel: An Archaeology, Studies in the History of Medieval Religion, Vol. XXXIV (Suffolk, U.K.: Boydell, 2007), 6.

6. Lady Chapels were altars built east of the high altar as a projection of the main building in large churches and cathedrals. They are dedicated to the Virgin. In certain cases, such as at Ely Cathedral, they are separate from the church proper. The Lady Chapel at Long Melford was originally such a separate building.

7. Dymond and Paine, Five Centuries of an English Parish Church, 3.

8. The current screens for both the Clopton and Martyn chapels were restored in the nineteenth century but incorporate and are modeled on the existing medieval originals (themselves much repaired). In 1858 remnants of the rood screen, with solid panels and painted like the Clopton chantry chapel in red, green, and white, were discovered during renovations. See Parker, History of Long Melford, 74–75.

9. Floyd, “Lydgate’s Architectural Verses,” 48. Also see Roffey, Medieval Chantry Chapel, chap. 2, for a description of the ways in which the architectural layout of the parish church both limited visual access to the altar and more tightly bound the members of a parish community.

10. “Mercy, Jesus, and great thanks” (my translation).

11. Griffith, “Newly Identified Verse Item by John Lydgate at Holy Trinity Church,” 365. Griffith rightly notes that there are at least four other scrolls visible on the western wall of the chapel, but their contents are largely unreadable.

12. Trapp, “Verses by Lydgate at Long Melford,” 2. Confusingly, as has been noted by Gibson in her “Bury St. Edmunds, Lydgate, and the N-Town Cycle,” Trapp suggests that the “Quis Dabit Meo Capiti Fontem Lacrimarum” is actually a poem about Mary Magdalene. This error has been continued in some current scholarship that refers to the Clopton chapel—see Bale, “From Translator to Laureate,” 930; and Horobin, “Politics, Patronage, and Piety in the Work of Osbern Bokenham,” 944.

13. Griffith, “Newly Identified Verse Item by John Lydgate at Holy Trinity Church,” 367.

14. Gibson, Theater of Devotion, 87.

15. This cannot be equally said for the “Balade,” which survives in only two witnesses alongside the verse at Long Melford. Neither one of these witnesses contains the Testament or “Quis Dabit,” so it is likely either that more than one source for the poems at Long Melford was used or that they came from a single source that no longer survives.

16. DIMEV 3937, Digital Index of Middle English Verse, accessed August 26, 2014,

17. The only other witness missing stanzas that does not excerpt entire sections—San Marino, Huntington Library, Hm 140 —has a missing leaf. If that leaf is considered, Hm 140 probably contained all of part I at the time of its composition, bringing it in line with the other manuscript witnesses.

18. John Lydgate, The Testament of Dan John Lydgate, in The Minor Poems of John Lydgate, ed. Henry Noble MacCracken, Early English Text Society, no. 107 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962), 329–62, at 345, ll. 416–22.

19. Indeed, such donor portraits, including one of Clopton, can be seen today in the north aisle of Holy Trinity, Long Melford.

20. Floyd, “Lydgate’s Architectural Verses,” 118–27.

21. Roger Martin, “The State of Melford Church and Our Ladies Chappel at the East End, as I Did Know It,” COL /8/3/3, Norwich Record Office, Norwich, U.K. Also in Dymond and Paine, Five Centuries of an English Parish Church, 61.

22. Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 370.

23. Roffey, Medieval Chantry Chapel, 6.

24. Will of Robert Sparrow, IC500/2/10.

25. Will of John Clopton, PROB 11/11/142–44.

26. “The rebukes,” here run together.

27. Martin, “State of Melford Church and Our Ladies Chappel at the East End.” Also in Dymond and Paine, Five Centuries of an English Parish Church, 63.

28. Unlike the case of the Testament, there is not the same intentional fragmentation of the “Quis Dabit” among the surviving witnesses. See DIMEV 6561, Digital Index of Middle English Verse, accessed August 26, 2014,, for the available sources. Also note that the digital index description misreads what Trapp is saying about the text and the reading of the portions of stanza V of the Testament, suggesting that they are the text of the “Quis Dabit.” The correct stanzas as they appear at Long Melford are in the appendix. [End Page 112]

29. Trapp, “Verses by Lydgate at Long Melford,” 4. Another possibility for Trapp’s erroneous connection between the Long Melford “Quis Dabit” and Mary Magdalene may have been the Lamentation of Mary Magdalene printed by Thomas Godfrey in 1532 and recorded by Charles Edward Tame in Our Lady’s Lament, and the Lamentation of Saint Mary Magdalene (London: Washbourne, 1871). If Trapp misunderstood which of the two poems was “Our Lady’s Lament,” it would explain why the misattribution of the Clopton verses occurred despite his correct identification of the verses on the wall at Long Melford (“Verses by Lydgate at Long Melford,” 5). Since the title of the text in MacCracken does not directly reference either the Virgin or Mary Magdalene and the latter is more closely associated with the act of weeping in association with Christ, Trapp’s assumption would seem validated on quick reference to the title in MacCracken. This assumption would have been further underscored via the image of the Virgin, which Trapp takes for the Magdalene.

30. Gibson, “Bury St. Edmunds, Lydgate, and the N-Town Cycle,” 81 n. 145; Floyd, “Lydgate’s Architectural Verses,” 53.

31. Interestingly, the Clopton chantry chapel served as the Lady Chapel for the church prior to the fifteenth-century renovations.

32. Clopton refers to the aisle and the shrine as two separate items in his will and refers to the former as a cloister. Considering the function of the shrine as a pilgrimage site, a cloister both provides a means to keep pilgrims moving throughout the space and evokes monastic cloisters, itself interesting because Clopton was a lay brother at Sion, Hounslow, the Franciscan minorities in London, Sudbury, Clare, and Babwell, which are all remembered in his will. A plan of Walsingham, including the Holy House, can be seen in J. C. Dickinson’s The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1956). My thanks go to James Knowles for pointing out the similarity in layout between the Lady Chapel and Walsingham.

33. G. H. Cook, The English Medieval Parish Church (London: Phoenix House, 1954), 121.

34. List of Church Goods, 1529, COL 3/8/5, 5–6, Norwich Record Office, Norwich, U.K.

35. Parker, History of Long Melford, 78–79, 81.

36. Lydgate, Testament, 238.

37. This rendering as “oure” is a linguistic outlier for the area based on the electronic Linguistic Atlas of Late Medieval English linguistic profiles for “oure,” “our,” and “oure.”

38. This line is absent from any of the existing manuscript witnesses. It was likely added in order for this verse to match the rhyme scheme of the other stanzas.

39. The first portion of the line differs from the Early English Text Society edition, in a reading that is unique to Long Melford.

40. This reading is unique to Long Melford.

41. “Ihesu” is missing, an omission that is unique to Long Melford.

42. While the manuscript witnesses place a space between “do” and “remewe,” the version of r following the o at Long Melford indicates that the scribes rendered this as a single word.

43. Most other witnesses follow the Early English Text Society edition, but Cambridge, Cambridge Library Trinity R.3.19 renders the line similarly: “Graunt or I dy shryft howsyll & repentaunce.”

44. Most other manuscript witnesses as well as Pynson’s 1520 print edition have “tappeare” and variations thereof in this line. However, Trinity R.3.19 has “to apere tofore.” The Clopton verses omit “apere,” unless it is in the missing text of the panel.

45. While the third letter of the second word is damaged, the straight rather than diagonal bow indicates an a rather than an e here.

46. The scribes/artists here deviate from their practice elsewhere in the chapel of pairing the spellings of rhyming words.

47. The remaining lines are missing, although there is some indication on the sixth line that there was text there at one point.

48. The artists neglected to change the second-person singular “thyn” to the second-person plural “youre” seen elsewhere on the wall.

49. The addition of the past participle “gaffid” at this line is unique to Long Melford.

50. This line is entirely missing due to damage.

51. “Say to my soul, you are my salvation” (my translation). This verse and the two following are all glossed with Latin citations from the Psalms, which are translated in the first lines of the stanzas. They are part of a five-stanza sequence treated in this manner in Oxford, Bodleian Library Laud 683; London, British Library Harley 218; and London, British Library Harley 2255 but not in the other extant sources. This line is from Psalm 34:3. [End Page 113]

52. “Make clear your presence upon your servant” (my translation). From Psalms 30:17.

53. “Save me in your mercy, Lord” (my translation). From Psalms 30:17.

54. The remnants of the ascender with split finishing stroke here suggest that the missing letter is a k rather than the expected c.

55. “This” rather than “thus” is unique to the Clopton chapel and an interesting distinction considering the location of the verse, with the high altar and mount visible to the left of the penitents depending on where they stood in the room.

56. It appears that the fourth word began with b or o rather than the i of in based on the remnants of a rounded bottom and the bottom of a minim visible on the panel, but with the significant damage to the line, determining which word the scribes intended cannot be done.

57. The line is largely missing as the wood itself has been removed and repaired, likely when the shields nailed to the wood throughout were removed. I have only supplied those words within the gap that correspond to the topmost part of the minims still remaining, and the letter forms are determined via reference to the manuscript witnesses and the ascenders and top portions of the letters that remain. [End Page 114]

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